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How to Keep Email From Leaking Your Productivity

Have you ever kept track of the amount of time you spend on email?

Is your time leaking away through your inbox?

Ever said “I’ll just pop in and see what’s in there” and then found yourself lost in email never, never land over an hour later?

We’ve all been there.

We answer this one from work, this one from mom, look at the video Hank sent, check out the notification from Facebook, read the one that has been sent around the world 2 dozen times but is still funny….

Yeah, we’ve all done it.

What was once hailed as “able to bring about the end of all paper communication” and “speed up communication in a way never before seen” – is now a number one time leak!

Oh, not that all emails are useless or that our inbox hasn’t saved trees and helped productivity.

But, that same tool that was miraculously going to cure us of our need for paper has also enabled us to receive and send many times more information than we likely would have had we needed to use paper.

And, we are using it for things that are more likely enabling us to waste time rather than save it!

So, how do you keep your productivity from leaking?

E-mail Time Management

You determine how IT fits into YOUR life, and how you will use it as a tool. When you define the boundaries and stick to them, then you are in control, not the other way around.

Ask yourself these questions:

1. What is this email inbox for?

Is this primarily for work or for play?

Don’t make the mistake of using it for both! I have made that mistake and am still regretting it and trying to fix it.

Have one inbox for work and one for play. And if you receive a lot of informational emails, then have one specifically set up for those.

This way you are not tempted by the one when you are working on the other!

If you have an employer provided email, then don’t give that one out to friends and family unless you are sure they will only use it with care (no forwards, no confidential information, no conversations you wouldn’t want your boss to see).

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2. How will you receive communication?

If you are alerted every time you get an email, then there is no way you are very productive – you must constantly be hoping to check/answer them!

This may sound silly, but when I say take control, I mean of all aspects.

Ask yourself these kinds of questions:

  • What time of day will I look at and respond to email? Set up specific time or times that you will look at and answer the email in your box.
  • Do you want to do it first thing in the morning or will that be too distracting and get you off track so it would be better to do it at the end of the day? Or, would two times a day suffice – noon and 4:30?
  • How do I want people to communicate with me so I will know what the email is about at a glance?

If you are working with a group of people on a project, you might train them to email you with a specific subject line naming the project.

You can also set up a system of numbers (e.g. 1=Priority, 2=Within a Few Days, 3=Within the Week, 4=When You Can Get to It) then train people to use that system to automatically tell you what kind of answer they need.

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3. How will you send communication?

This one may also have sounded silly, but you should have the idea from question number 2!

Just like above, if every time the computer tells you “Ding, you’ve got mail” you jump to respond, can you really be productive?

You want to train people how to send emails so you will respond properly, but you also want to train them about when to expect your response.

Will you answer all of them by the end of the day or by the start of the next day?

Do you answer every email or just the ones with questions in them? We waste a ton of time just by responding “Thanks” or “Sure, I’ll get to it” (and opening to read those responses) when we don’t have to.

If they know that you have a system and will respond according to it, then they don’t need the superfluous niceties.

Determine your own system. Then train others and yourself in using it. You must be diligent because fixing your email nightmares won’t happen overnight!

Starting off the New Year Right


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